“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” – Stephen King, “The Gunslinger”.
The first sentence in what would become an epic sprawling book series created over several decades.
In my middle school years, I discovered an author who would change the course of my life. As the terrible and disturbing years that counted as my adolescence gave way to an awkward period of pubescence, not many things were what you would call “comfort”.
After using “reading material” (and I use that term loosely) to indulge in teenage desires, I soon found that certain genres took me away from the hell of bullying, school, and you know, general Middle School BS. For me, Stephen King and his World’s did that. The first novel I read was “The Green Mile”. I was inspired by Michael Clarke Duncan’s (may he rest in peace) performance as the unfortunate victim of racism and fear. Not only did I feel a connection with Duncan’s character, John Coffey, but once the prose was displayed upon paper, I was forever enchanted by Mr. King and eventually became a “Constant Reader” as he likes to put it. Now, obviously, I could not relate to the character in form of race, but being an outsider was simply a feeling that has never left me, even through to this day.
My second run-in with Mr. King’s work was a bit different. After finishing “The Green Mile” on vacation in Colorado, I was brought along to a used bookstore in which I discovered the first three volumes of Mr. King’s dark fantasy series: The Dark Tower. The odd tale of a “Authurian-Like” figure going on a journey through time, multiple dimensions, and the supernatural grabbed me and enveloped my feelings and thoughts. It took me almost another decade before I was able to finish the series (King began the series formally in 1982 and it was finished in 2004), but every step of Roland, The Gunslinger’s journey was my own as well. I know many a person that feels the same way.
Then in 2012, Warner Brothers and Ron Howard announced they wanted to take on a huge project with a hybrid film/television version of The Dark Tower series. HBO, one of the sister companies of WB would air the show and WB would distribute the film. This ambitious announcement was also met with an announcement that Javier Bardem:
the creepiest creep
that ever creeped) was originally set to play Roland, but that fell through and Russell Crowe was given the option for the role. That also fell through and everyone’s favorite weirdo actor, Matthew McConaughey was offered a role in the film, which many thought of him portraying The Gunslinger Roland as a given.
Well, WB backed out, and four years later, we’re staring down the sandalwood grip pistols of a joint Sony/Media Rights Capital/Columbia Pictures amalgamation filming right now! That’s right, the start of The Dark Tower film is happening as you read this. Directed by a relative unknown, Nikolaj Arcel, who’s most notable credit comes from writing the screenplay of the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This is an odd and bold move, but clearly Sony trusts this man and with Stephen King providing the bones, there is a lot that can go south, but let’s choose to ignore until the film is finished and we’re strapped in for a unique ride.
With all of that, the actual news of this story is, yesterday, we were given the first images of Roland himself, portrayed by Idris Elba, an actor whom Stephen King himself called “One of the Best Actors” Working Today. High praise from such a legend. So without further ado, see our “hero” for the first time:
All of these images come curtosey of Twitter (Mr. Elba’s I do believe) and if you’re familiar with the books or now intrigued by them, Idris Elba looks glorious as Roland, The Gunslinger. Now you cannot have a protagonist without an antagonist. This character first comes in the form of “The Man in Black” as mentioned above. And while he didn’t get the lead role in the film, none other than Matthew McConaughey himself was cast opposite Idris Elba.
I realize this post doesn’t give much for the non-reader, but please understand that there is a massive following for these books and I encourage you, if you enjoy dark fantasy, science fiction, and any novel Stephen King has ever written, The Dark Tower is for you. And as one of the main protagonists says: “Go then, there are other worlds than these.” -Jake Chambers, “The Gunslinger” by Stephen King.
I honestly had a real plan for this article. It was going to be a week long event in which we had guest writers discussing things like #OscarsSoWhite, how terrible the panel is due to ridiculous rules, eligibility, and voting, but I just can’t seem to care enough about the award show to make a real effort at posting something profound.
In lieu of an article about how awful the Oscars have become (and pretty much always have been), I’m going to go over some of the major categories and see if we can find something of interest somewhere among them to talk about.
Academy Award for Best Actress
First off, I really don’t like the fact that we still distinguish between “Actresses” and “Actors” via gender. They are all actors and should be treated as such. In my opinion, we should really put Jennifer Lawrence (nominated this year for the movie Joy) up against Eddie Redmayne (nominated for his (her?) performance in The Danish Girl) or Matt Damon (nominated for The Martian). If you’ve seen Joy, you know it’s no where near the caliber of her past performances (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, etc.), but it’s still a well put together movie and for her part, she does everything right and again, showcases an immense amount of talent.
Anyway, there are other actors (yes, screw the word Actress) that are nominated as well, here is a quick round up:
Cate Blanchett, in Carol Aird, as Carol
Brie Larson, in Room, as Joy “Ma” Newsome
Jennifer Lawrence, in Joy, as Joy Mangano
Charlotte Rampling, in 45 Years, as Kate Mercer
Saoirse Ronan, in Brooklyn, as Eilis Lacey
IWTMM’s Prediction: Jennifer Lawrence
Of course it has to be Jennifer Lawrence. Everyone loves her (she is really seemingly charming by all accounts) and if the panel even recognized any other actor’s name in that pile, then I would be surprised. Just give her another one, let her trip on the stairs or her dress *cue laughter* and a “surprised” winning speech.
IWTMM’s “Who Should Have Won”: Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road.
Seriously, you’ve likely seen Mad Max: Fury Road, the other nominations, not too likely. If you have (or even if you haven’t), Charlize Theron kicks so much ass in two hours than all the “Action Stars” of the 80’s combined. I totally think she should go all Kanye West on the Winner.
Academy Award for Best Actor
I believe they add, “in a Leading Role” to this title, but I don’t really care (that’s going to be a theme during this whole article). Let’s take a look at our powder-white nominees:
Bryan Cranston, in Trumbo, as Dalton Trumbo
Matt Damon, in The Martian, as Mark Watney
Leonardo DiCaprio, in The Revenant, as Hugh Glass
Michael Fassbender, in Steve Jobs, as Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, in The Danish Girl, as Lili Elbe / Einar Wegener
IWTMM’s Prediction: Leonardo DiCaprio
Leo has been passed over for this award in four separate years. They skipped a year between nominating him so it didn’t look too suspicious, but I believe DiCaprio has been thoroughly snubbed. It likely doesn’t make any difference to him. Did you see what he got to do in The Wolf of Wall Street?
I mean, come on, you think Leo cares? Does he want to win, probably, it’s seemingly a big deal to these Hollywood types. But if a little gold statue is more important than the millions he rakes in for almost every film he does, then I really think the “art” in film is moot.
Academy Award for Best….
You know what, I really don’t give a crap. The Oscars are horrible. The monologue is obnoxious and no matter who wins, someone is going to be upset. I don’t even have enough apathy to finish this article.
IWTMM’s Prediction for Best Director: Adam McKay for The Big Short
IWTMM’s Prediction for Best Picture: The Big Short
Seriously, I don’t care. The Big Short was a phenomenal movie with excellent actors, a horrifying reality, and was honestly both entertaining and filmed very well. It’s on the “Unicorn List”. It’s both entertaining and “Critically” acclaimed. So, for my money, it’s going to come out the winner, but I really don’t care. The whole thing is just a big Hollywood circlejer…….
…..and that’s all I have to say about that. At least I get to see Zootopia next weekend.
Warning, the following review will indeed be a review of a Quentin Tarantino movie, we cannot do our job without being slightly profane. Rest assured that no racial slurs will be used, but if you’re offended by gratuitous violence and language, you wouldn’t see this movie anyway, let alone read a review. Now, on with the show, er, review:
Now I will get into detail about the film and showcase some of its best features as well as a few failings, but first I want to give you a little bit of history regarding the “70MM” presentation you might have heard about for this film. If you’re not interested, just skip to the picture of the film strips.
As you’ve likely seen, The Hateful Eight is being shown in this fancy “70MM Ultra Panavision” at select locations. Most of you will likely not get this opportunity as it requires a theater to rent, borrow, sell their souls for a projector that can handle it, and it’s being shown as a special “Roadshow Event”.
I threw a lot at you there. Let me break it down just a little bit in more detail. I’ll get to the film comparisons soon, and I won’t get too technical here, just take my word for it, it’s an extremely panoramic film that not only gives excellent detail, but can make landscapes absolutely breathtaking (there were quite a few examples in The Hateful Eight). What really makes this exciting is that this is the first movie filmed in 70MM and shown since 1966.
I also mentioned the special “Roadshow Event” earlier. Basically, when TV was first invented, everyone went nuts for this home entertainment miracle and thus stopped spending money at the theaters.
So, what was poor disenfranchised Hollywood to do when their adoring (paying) customers stayed home and watched Batman, the first episode of Star Trek, and The Andy Griffith Show instead of dressing up all fancy like, shelling out the nickles and dimes (or *gasp* a dollar) on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, El Dorado, or even Batman: The Movie.
Anyway, the answer from Hollywood was to make going to theaters an “experience” again. This came in the format of an old tactic called a “Roadshow Event”. The premise was simple, limit the supply (the movie release) and people would rush to see a “Special Screening” of Ben-Hur (1959) or It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)- and oh, I made sure that I had the correct amount of “Mads” in the title there. Genius idea, but without the best distribution methods, no Drones for Lyndon B. Johnson to deliver things…that we know about.
This is where the “Roadshow” portion came about. They would bring the projector, a full panoramic (and sometimes curved screen, which you might say they were ahead of the…oh forget it, you would probably lynch me for making that joke about modern Curved TVs), and the film from area to area to show the film. It made for those “Special Events” and got the attention of people again. While 1966 was the final year a 70MM film was made, Hollywood did okay by reviving an old gimmick with new technology that would last well into the 1980’s:
Bit of history on the “Roadshow Events” and now just a quick showcase of 70MM film in general. I’ll do it quick and I won’t have you all do any math. The 70MM film format had a ratio of 2.76:1 (that means the screen is 2.76 times as wide as it is tall). Compared, most movies today are projected in either 1.85:1 (35MM) or 2.35:1 “anamorphic widescreen” format. High-Def screens feature a 16:9 ratio, which is close enough to 1.85:1, and besides, only nerds like me appreciate. As I said earlier, this is done to give amazing landscapes, epic scale of set pieces, and almost turning the film into a “play-like quality”. Just take a quick look below to see comparisons of the different types of film. I tossed in a true IMAX comparison just for fun.
History lesson is over, let’s talk about all the filthy, gory, disturbing, racist and other offensive non-sense Tarantino loves to showcase in all of his films.
As I said in the title, Samuel L. Jackson really steals the show here. His character not only progresses much of the story forward, and is the most clever. Don’t get me wrong, I love Samuel L. Jackson and every Tarantino film, but I think it’s time they take a break from each other. If you were to look at Tarantino’s IMDB page, you would see seventeen director credits. All but eight of them, are TV shows, guest directing gigs, etc. The meat of his directing career, the eight true films, starting with Reservoir Dogs (1992) and leading up to The Hateful Eight, Samuel L. Jackson appears in six of those eight films.
I mean, there is no cardinal sin here since both Samuel L. Jackson and Quentin Tarantino are both insanely talented, and they haven’t gotten to the level of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton. The latter two’s collaborations are getting worse and worse as the years go by. I don’t want the same phenomenon to happen to Jackson and Tarantino. And like I said, Jackson steals the show. He’s the one the audience is rooting for and he can do no wrong. In fact, in this performance, I believe he leaves a little on the table even though his dialogue is crisp and well delivered, it just feels that he’s playing “Samuel L. Jackson” and not the character in the film.
Everyone else has their assigned duties. Kurt Russel pokes his head out from whatever hole he was in and punches a woman in the face so many times that I wanted to call the cops for assault and battery. You’ve got other normal Tarantino actors: Michael Madsen and Tim Roth who put on great performances. I really appreciate Roth who has one of the most prolonged but easily hilarious scenes I’ve seen. You have to pay attention, but it’s there and it is glorious. The others involved deliver the script to mount as much tension as possible before we have the “Tarantino Battle Minute”.
I name this particular sequence the “Tarantino Battle Minute” because it happens in every one of his films. First, there is a seriously long discussion/dialogue featuring one person to a medium sized group. This is Tarantino’s specialty. No other writer/director ever produces such authentic dialogue. It’s natural and in some situations, like half the scenes in Inglorious Basterds, it builds the tension to a serious boiling point. That’s the second part, the “Tarantino Battle Minute”. After all the conversations, there is a lightning quick amount of carnage.
Heads are blown off, people disemboweled, simultaneous murders, limbs ripped apart or off, testicles shredded, eyes stepped on, and in one case, the top of someone’s head is cleanly sliced off. All this will occur in a matter of moments. The longest example is from Kill Bill: Vol. 1 when The Bride destroys the gang known as “The Crazy 88”. But suffice it to say, the “Tarantino Battle Minute” usually ends up looking like this afterwards:
You know these are in the movie. They’re bloody fantastic (I mean that in the most serious and every way possible). But, that brings me to a moment of hesitation in The Hateful Eight, I essentially knew what was going to happen the entire time and that’s kind of a bummer. I know a lot of other films follow a director’s style and exact same formula, but that doesn’t make it any better. What I can, and will say, is that even though I knew it was coming, it still showcased some of the most ridiculous and gratuitous violence with guns I’ve ever seen. I say guns because The Bride murders with a blade.
Now some things I can dote on are the cinematography and set design. I saw the film in its 70MM format, so your experience may vary, but what I felt was true immersion with the landscape and the characters. It’s something that 3D tries to do all the time, but can’t quite get it right. You immediately see why Tarantino resurrected a decades old film format: not only “just because he could”, but he wanted the audience in that cabin and wanted us to be able to see every detail around us.
That’s really the last thing I can say about the film: the set was perfect. You have eight people in a one-room shack with no where to hide. The outhouse is indeed outside, along with the stables. The door has to be nailed shut due to it being broken. And with all the decorations, tables, bed, bar, fireplace, and eight strangers, it gets extremely claustrophobic and paranoia, even in the audience, looms everywhere. Tarantino could not have constructed a more perfectly tense location for the characters to interact.
I wouldn’t be doing my job very well if I didn’t warn against the coarse language throughout the entire film. I cannot imagine any of our readers offended by the slurs and curses, but I have to at least say something. And it really does add to the dialogue. The film takes place in the Post Civil War time and listening to the transition and moderate to no acceptance of anything or anyone was fascinating.
Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:
The Hateful Eight is a Quentin Tarantino film. Everything he does in every other movie he has done is present in this feature. I can’t imagine this would be your first Tarantino film, so if you like what he’s done before, you’re going to like this movie. I will say I’m getting tired of Samuel L. Jackson stealing every scene he’s in, but that’s a minor complaint. Still it kept a little enjoyment from me, not much, but I wasn’t as invested in the character as I usually would have been. Finally, if you live somewhere that has the 70MM Roadshow, see that version, you’ll be treating yourself.